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A DAUGHTER OF A HAMILTON PIONEER

Narrator: Mrs. Clara Prentice of Hamilton, Missouri

Mrs. Prentice was in Hamilton in the years of its very early history, coming here from Daviess County with her parents Mr. and Mrs. Otis Richardson in 1859. Mr. Richardson had served as a soldier in the war with the Florida Indians in the New Jersey Dragoons, enlisting from Maryland his home. The story is told that a shyster lawyer volunteered to get him a pension with a commission as pay for this service. He could find no Government record of it so he found another Richardson name who served in the Mexican War and put that in the application, but of course Mr. Richardson refused to sign it. Mr. Richardson built the home for his family, now the property of James Deems, which is one of the oldest houses in town. A few years ago when the house was remodeled, it was found that it had been made with wooden pegs not nails.

He was appointed Post master here November 1861 and held the office till March 31, 1875. Many of the old timers tell of him in that office. At first he gave out the mail at his home, then at the Kemper Store, then he built a shack at the east end of the Kemper store where he also sold groceries and candy.

He had a big family of boys and girls come to maturity - some were Alice (Singleton), Clara (Prentice), Minnie (Price), who was born 1860 after the family moved here, Mrs. Hemry and George the baby. One son was killed while serving as a special guard at the lumber yard by a mistake. Mr. Richardson became Justice of the Peace and some yet call him Squire Richardson. He was quite determined in his speech and actions and rarely stopped on his way, to talk. He carried a cane by habit and put it down on the side walk every three steps. People on his way home always knew he was coming.

Clara Richardson went to school here in town to a school located on a lot just south of her fathers home, then she went to the school on the Methodist church parsonage site. There she was a pupil at the subscription school kept by Andrew McClelland in the early seventies. She was also a Davy Ferguson girl in the big north brick.

She married Gideon Prentice who had come here as a timer for the Morton Bros. and finally branched out into a business for himself. His first location as a Hardware man was in the block north of the Penney Store; then he moved to a brick on the south east corner of Main and Mill where he was burned out.

Mrs. Prentice was probably the most successful "canvasser" that the town ever had. She sold corsets, toilet articles, spice etc. and made it a regular business. Her ice cream for Congregational lawn socials was an institution in the town and the same was true of her cakes and pies.

Her youth was passed in primitive ways. She used to tell of letting butter and milk down on ropes into the well to keep them cool in summer time--sometimes the rope broke and then the food was lost. Those earliest days few people had even heard of kerosene lamps, and she told of making tallow for candles and stringing the candle molds with candle wicks. She told about going out to the creeks and getting reeds and rushes which when dried scoured milk pans. There was a favorite practice of soaking quince seeds in water and wetting the hair with it before doing it up in curl papers; and a butter milk face-wash was good for the complexion. (Real butter milk it was, too.)

Her stories of the Civil War days came from her own experience. One night, a band of Union Soldiers on the way from the Battle of Lexington stopped at the Richardson home and demanded food. Word had already been passed of their coming this way, so the Richardsons had cooked a lot of food from their store. For an hour they shoved out victuals through the front window of their home to the soldiers out side.

During the war many stores were held up at night for money by bushwhackers on both sides. Every afternoon Alice Richardson used to carry the Post Office money in a box out to Judge Wm. Bristow north of town. No thief ever guessed that the girl on horse back was carrying money. She was just a school girl with books. The family never knew whether she was safe till they saw her horse over the hill the next morning. Most of the country to the north of their house was empty and their view was unhindered.

Interviewed 1933.

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All photos are copyright KingsCross Farm, 1997 & 1998
All written material other than reference material copyright KingsCross Farm 1998